PURPOSE: The aim of this paper is to further the theory and strengthen methodological approaches to the role of ethics in buyer-seller relationships. The paper explores opportunities to enhance response rates, validity and reliability in the research context of organisations seeking to understand the ethical beliefs their suppliers hold of their buying organisations.
DESIGN / METHODOLOGY / APPROACH: The research universe is a select business group, all of which are technologically literate and online. Innovative research sampling methods were selected to great effect. The method selected was saturation surveying, a process whereby all identifiable target respondents are surveyed. Instead of selecting between sampling techniques, the option of saturation surveying, cheaply available electronically, removes the focus from the decision to either sample probabilistically or not. Instead, as the entire universe can be contacted in a cost effective manner, the sampling frame becomes of paramount importance. Thus, the focus then shifts from accurately selecting respondents from the sampling frame towards enhancing the sampling frame itself. The sampling frame was improved through guidance from the literature.
FINDINGS: The paper demonstrates that this research approach was successful in that it generated a high response rate, suggesting great involvement amongst the supplier population in the topic at hand. It also indicates a lessening of non-response bias, as the response rate is more than double that of previous research into the area.
IMPLICATIONS: This paper presents a comprehensive approach to researching ethics in buyer-seller relations. It further promotes the effective use of new sampling methods enabled by the Internet when directed towards selective populations.
ORIGINALITY / VALUE: The novel approach of sampling frame enhancement twined with saturation surveying has exciting implications for business research. The expansion of the sampling frame to a wider audience of suppliers has long been noted as necessary although not actioned. Furthermore, in terms of the little-studied nature of buyer-seller relations, the verification of the scale developed by Bendixon and Abratt (2007) affirms the robustness of this measure for ethics research.